Bond between Gibson, Towers growing stronger
Contract extended, D-backs manager in jovial mood in addressing media
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson appeared totally at ease on Thursday as he met with the assembled media for the first time this spring at the ballclub's Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex.
And why not? With pitchers and catchers reporting early and the opening two games in Australia against the Dodgers on March 22-23, Gibson returns for his fourth full season totally in sync with the club hierarchy, which just extended the contracts of Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers earlier this week.
Gibson joked and joshed individually and collectively with the media, which tells you a lot about his continued growth and comfort in the position. When it came to talking about his job security, the sometimes recalcitrant Gibson was expansive.
"This is a better situation for us," he said. "I'm happy to be here to finish out what I started. That's what I came here for. I have a good, positive vision of where we're going. We just had our organizational meetings. We had two days, two and a half days together. We're all connected.
"Everybody understands what everybody does in this organization. They understand that no one person is any more important than the other. We all have ownership in what we do and that's a really good feeling. Getting back to my contract, why wouldn't you be happy to be a part of something like that?"
After back-to-back 81-81 seasons, managing general partner Ken Kendrick and president Derrick Hall came up big time showing extreme confidence in Towers and Gibson. What is known is that each man had an option year in their contracts for the 2015 season. Saying those were picked up is a safe assumption. What is unknown and unannounced is how long the contracts were extended beyond that.
Really, it hardly matters. The message to the players in the clubhouse assembling during the coming days is that their manager is firmly in place, so get with the program. It also eliminates the stress Don Mattingly went through all last season when the Dodgers declined to pick up his option. With each team slump, the media immediately questioned his viability. Mattingly has a new three-year contract, so that's at an end in Los Angeles. Same with Gibson in Arizona.
"I think that kind of thing would add to anyone's comfort level," Gibson said about the extension. "At the same time, if it didn't happen, I'd feel the same today. I have confidence in myself, I have confidence in the organization, in my teammates. There have been some really good conversations going on. The things that we do and what we've talked about have changed a lot over the years.
"You evaluate and you try to learn from your successes, mistakes and failures, your relationships. I scour constantly to try and be better and wonder how I can be better and make the team be better. We're in go mode right now. We've learned a lot of good life lessons along the way and we'll apply them in a good, positive way."
Gibson was Arizona's bench coach under Bob Melvin and A.J. Hinch and took over the managerial reins on July 1, 2010, the day Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes were dismissed. Under Gibson, the club was 34-49 for the remainder of that season. Towers, dismissed himself as longtime GM of the Padres in 2009, was hired to replace Byrnes.
Towers had no background with Gibson, but upon the recommendation of Hall and Kendrick decided to keep him as manager. Towers remade the bullpen and the coaching staff and the D-backs had a surprising 94-68, 2011 season, winning the National League West and making the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five tough games by the Brewers.
Since then, the changes have kept coming, but the D-backs haven't been able to make it back to the postseason. In the meantime, Towers has developed the kind of relationship with Gibson he had in San Diego with managers Bruce Bochy and Bud Black. There is a friendship beyond the working relationship and Towers considers it his own shortcoming that he hasn't been able to help Gibson develop further and quicker as a manager.
This offseason there has been plenty of soul searching and the coaching staff has been remade again. Charles Nagy, Don Baylor, Steve Sax and Matt Williams are gone, Williams to the Nationals as manager. Dave Duncan was brought in to oversee the pitching of the entire organization and Mike Harkey was hired from the Yankees to work at the big league level. Dave McKay is the new first-base coach and Turner Ward and Glenn Sherlock have been elevated to hitting coach and third-base coach, respectively.
Meanwhile, the bond between Towers and Gibson has grown even stronger, which bodes well for the immediate success of the entire organization.
"[Our relationship] is outstanding," Gibson said. "He's a very good friend of mine, we spend a lot of time together doing what we do occupationally and what we do as friends. We spend a lot of time together with our wives. I've even been out with him on the golf course together a few times this year. It's not pretty, but it's fun. It's competitive. It's good. We're in a good spot. He hates to lose just like I do.
"He's worked very hard with his staff and I've got to say Derrick and Ken have been unreal this offseason. We've all spent a lot of time together and talked a lot of things through. I certainly feel very connected. It's great, but I do want to beat [Towers] on the golf course the next time we play."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.